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The Old Ghost Road is one of New Zealand's longest single track ride, with 85km. It's a full on multi-day ride of technical grade 4 riding, big climbs and long downhills, impressive mountain ridge riding and excellent back country huts. Built by volunteers and by bikers for bikers. Adventurers tackled it with a group of friends at the end of Feb and the verdict: it's unmissable!
We completed the ride in 3 days, choosing to make the most of the beautiful wilderness and staying at Old Ghost Lake Hut and Specimen Point Hut.
Beginning at Lyell Scenic Reserve in a carpark full of vicious sand-flies, we excitedly threw on our well packed rucksacks on our backs and headed off onto the start of the track. It’s 18km to Lyell Saddle Hut, the first 15 or so km is a steady climb up, with the last 3km flattening off slightly to get you up to 1200m. The track winds up along the side of a valley through native bush and zig zagging in and out of numerous side valleys and through streams.
Lyell Saddle Hut is a great lunch spot with open views. Although the climb from here is only 6km, of the last 10km to Ghost Lake Hut, there is no denying it, it's tough and seemingly never ending. However, when it eventually does, the rewards of riding along the ridgeline and views in all directions are worth every single drop of sweat.
Our average speed dropped significantly along the ridge, for two reasons, firstly in places it’s pretty technical, narrow and has steep drops on both sides and secondly, it's such an impressive view.
At the top, the track stretches out in front of you for the next few kilometres, carved into the side of the ridge by some hardy volunteers, it winds its way along with steep drop offs to the right then steep drop offs to the left. Concentration levels are high along here, one wrong move and you wouldn’t be coming back up for another go.
The track surface is loose, big rocks and loose rocks complicating the path ahead. Negotiating these was a great challenge. The views continue all around you, mountains and bush for miles.
After numerous photo stops (I think we stopped about 20 times in 5km), some bike walking and some exciting riding, the track started to head downhill. It's the first downhill of the day, taking us to the Old Ghost Road hut, where we arrived super excited and seriously stoked.
OLD GHOST HUT
The hut is literally perched on the ridge with extensive views out into the park and you can clearly see tomorrow’s phenomenal ride.
In the cosy, well equipped hut, we eagerly scoffed down our afternoon snack, stoked that we had toughed it out and carried the cheese, crackers and olives in the backpacks. On a high we spent the rest of the arvo swapping riding tales with fellow bikers in the sunshine out on the decking soaking in the amazing view.
We were so excited to get started on the track The first section of downhill is steep, exposed with some seriously tight switchbacks to tackle, that is if you're not looking at the stunning views of the valley in front of you!! Before long though, we hit a gruelling uphill for a few kilometres to the top of the next ridge. But don't worry, it was worth every inch of hard work.
We thought yesterday’s ridgeline views couldn't be beaten, were we wrong! The Skyline Ridge is just awesome.
From here there is some bike carrying down steps, which is very much compensated by the next epically long, fast, flowing downhill, through the bush down to the next valley bottom.
Here the track flattens out and we negotiate the first of a few swing bridges. We took the opportunity to regroup and ride together to Stern Valley Hut and then onto our planned lunch stop at the Goat Creek Hut. Goat Creek Hut is a few minutes off the track, but is well worth a visit, it's a classic old kiwi back country hut. I have to say, we were thankful for the hut as the number of sandflies on standby ready to attack us when we got there was immense.
From here the track winds its way through goat creek valley to one of our favourite tough bits of the ride. The Boneyard. When we got to this bare and stony climb it was sunny and extremely hot, so the riding up though the rocks and boulders was tough, but it was one of those climbs where you get a buzz from putting in the hard work. The trail zigzags in and out of boulders as it climbs up the back wall of the valley, the view of the valley below opens up and tries really hard to distract from the task at hand.
And whoa on the other side of the saddle, is another epically long, great surfaced downhill. One of the best, we still dream of it. Back wheels were skidding round switchbacks and the pace was fast and exhilarating for a good 20 minutes.
The next section of track through the bush is easy riding and we got the pace on, nailing it through the beautiful native bush and counting the kilometres flying by. You get peeks of the river next to the track and get wet, crossing side streams before you get to Mokihinui Forks Hut. From here it was an easy few kilometres to our hut for the night at Specimen Point.
SPECIMEN POINT HUT
Points to note about Specimen Point hut are: Sandflies, Sandflies and more Sandflies. It was like World War Z with them gathering outside. The view is great but we advise you only look at it from inside the hut. Just a kilometre or so down the track there is a swimming hole if you’re feeling brave, we weren't.
For our 3rd and last day, the weather deteriorated slightly but it was still incredibly beautiful riding, the 17km mostly running parallel to the Mokihinui river (note for paddlers a great grade 3 run with the right levels). What we loved about this section with the sporadic glimpses of views up and down the valley, the variation of bush vegetation as we went along and the technical riding that was necessary to not end up in the river.
We were all stoked to get to the end of the track, what a fantastic 3 days of riding with great friends and stunning scenery. You just couldn't ask for better, but hey it got better as another 2km down the road there's a pub with hot chips, beer and a hot shower.
OVERVIEW OLD GHOST ROAD
Technical single track for 85km and seriously impressive scenery. If you’re a decent MTB’er, it’s not to be missed. It’s a New Zealand Must Do!
Slightly negative points to be prepared for are: sandflies and also if you need a shuttle, it’s quite expensive. (although the track use is free, so it’s worth it).
It’s possible to get off and walk the more technical sections, however be prepared for longer ride times.
Adventurers Travel Company can organise your bespoke New Zealand holiday for you, including the Old Ghost Road and more. Contact us, we're friendly and ready to help plan your New Zealand adventure.